For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
Henrike Jansen (Leiden University) is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar.
Event details of ACLC Seminar | Henrike Jansen
3 February 2023
16:15 -17:30
P.C. Hoofthuis

Implicit elements in an “I’m not stupid” argument

This paper presents an analysis and evaluation of what I call the “I’m not stupid” argument. “I’m not stupid” arguments are typically used in a formal or informal context of accusation and defense, by defendants who argue that they did not commit the act they have been accused of. This type of argument has ancient roots, which lie in Aristotle’s famous description of the weak man’s and strong man’s arguments, who defended themselves against an accusation of having started a fight. The weak man said that he is not to blame, since it is unlikely that a weak person would attack someone who is obviously much stronger. In turn, the stronger man said that he knew his physical superiority would make him a suspect, therefore it is implausible that he acted as the initiator (Rhetoric 1402a17-22; see Freese 1975, p. 335; cf. Kennedy 2007, pp. 188-189).

The analysis of the “I’m not stupid” argument takes the shape of an argumentative pattern, which displays a full-fledged representation of its argumentation structure. The pattern could be reconstructed on the basis of a collection of ten contemporary instances of an “I’m not stupid” argument. Although ten instances constitute a small collection, the wide variation in the argumentative elements that they express explicitly or leave implicit made it possible to identify eight new premises in comparison with previous analyses of the weak man’s and strong man’s arguments (Walton, Tindale and Gordon 2014; Walton 2019). These new premises show that the crucial point of an evaluation of this argument is the arguer’s supposedly rational character in making a gain-loss calculation.


Freese, John H. 1975. Aristotle: The “art” of rhetoric. English translation of Aristotle’s text; Loeb Classical Library 193. Cambridge (Mass.) etc.: Harvard University Press.

Kennedy, George A. 2007. Aristotle: On rhetoric. Translated with an introduction, notes, and appendices, 2nd ed. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Walton, Douglas. 2019. Plausible argumentation in eikotic arguments: The ancient weak versus strong man example. Argumentation 33(1): 45-74

Walton, Douglas, Christopher W. Tindale, and Thomas F. Gordon. 2014. Applying recent argumentation methods to some ancient examples of plausible reasoning. Argumentation 28: 85-119.

About the ACLC seminar series

The ACLC seminar series is a two weekly lecture series organized by the ACLC, the Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication.

P.C. Hoofthuis

Room 1.15
Spuistraat 134
1012 VB Amsterdam